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How Issue 1 Would Change Redistricting In Ohio

Ohio's current Congressional district map. [Ohio Secretary of State]

On May 8, Ohio voters will decide on Issue 1, which changes the process for drawing Congressional districts.

Read on for an overview of how redistricting would work if the issue passes.

This Q&A is based largely on the redistricting proposal summary written by the Legislative Service Commission, a nonpartisan body within state government that analyzes legislation.

You can read the full LSC analysis here.

If Issue 1 passes, who draws the Congressional lines?

Under this plan, the state legislature gets the first crack at passing a map. To pass, a proposed Congressional map needs support from three fifths on the state House and Senate. It also must have the backing of at least half of the members of the largest two political parties in each house of the legislature.

The General Assembly has a deadline to do all this, too: Sep. 30 in the year after a new Census.

What happens if the General Assembly can’t agree on a map by the deadline?

Then the Ohio Redistricting Commission gets a try. There are seven members on the commission—the governor, the auditor, the secretary of state, appointees of the speaker of the state House and of the Senate president, and two people representing the second-largest party in each legislative house.

The commission has until Oct. 31 of the year after a Census to approve a map. A proposal needs yes-votes from four commission members, including two members from each of the largest parties in the General Assembly.

No current member of Congress can serve on the commission.

What if the commission doesn’t pass a map?

In that case, the state legislature takes another stab at it, and has until Nov. 30 to do so.

A map still needs three-fifths support in each house, but the bipartisanship requirements are more relaxed than before. Now the plan needs yes-votes from at least one third of the two largest parties in each house.

Alternately, the legislature can pass a map with a simple majority, and without bipartisan support. But if it does, lawmakers have to abide by certain rules:

The map cannot unduly favor or disfavor a party or incumbents.

The map also cannot unduly split local governments.

The legislature must try to draw compact districts, but it’s not required to.

The legislature has to explain, in writing, how the maps comply with the rules.

The plan will only be in effect for two general elections for the U.S. House of Representatives.

What are the rules about not splitting up communities?

Out of Ohio’s 88 counties, 65 cannot be split apart by district lines under this proposal. Of the remaining counties, 18 can’t be split more than once. Five can’t be split more than twice.

Some counties, such as Cuyahoga and Franklin, must be split because their populations exceed what’s known as the “ratio of representation,” the average population of a Congressional district. In our current maps, the ratio of representation is about 721,000 people.

But when splitting those big counties up, line-drawers have to observe some rules. Cities with a population of at least 100,000 can’t be split. Cities with a population greater than the ratio of representation—and right now, only Columbus meets that description—must be contained significantly within a single district.

Districts also must be compact and made up of contiguous territory.

How can the public participate in the redistricting process?

Under this plan, the state legislature must hold at least two public hearings on a proposed Congressional map. The legislature and redistricting commission also must come up with a way for members of the public to propose maps of their own.

A proposed map is also subject to voter referendum in the 90 days after it receives the governor’s signature—unless the legislature passes it as an emergency measure. It takes two thirds of each house to pass a bill as an emergency.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.